Two years ago, Delegate Mike Manypenny introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana in West Virginia for medical purposes. At the time, the bill was largely ignored, and as many of you know, medical marijuana is not currently legal in our state. However, just this past year, Manypenny has introduced two new bills on the subject, and they have caught the attention of the public and other delegates.
According to the Beckley newspaper The Register-Herald, a public hearing was held on March 28 in the House Health and Human Resources Committee. Eighteen supporters spoke in favor of the bill and no opponents spoke against the bill. The success of this meeting has instigated a serious investigation by legislators into the medical benefits and legal aspects of legalizing medical marijuana in the state. While the bill seems to be gaining the support of legislators, many still fear retaliation from the federal government, to whom marijuana is still considered illegal.
This is despite President Barack Obama’s statement that the federal government will not interfere in states with this kind of legislation. WV MetroNews reports that a medical marijuana bill, just like the one proposed in recent years, will be introduced again in the next regular legislative session, so now is the time to write to your legislators, whether you are in support of or against the bill. State senators Herb Snyder and John Unger represent Jefferson County, which is part of the 16th senatorial district.
There are many different public opinions on the matter of medical marijuana. Some people strongly believe that the drug is illegal for a reason and the law should not support the use of such a substance. Some believe that the drug has the potential for abuse while others see potential for medical benefits. Others compare the dangers of marijuana use to that of legal substances such as cigarettes and alcohol and feel that it is not as dangerous, and thus believe that medical legalization is too small of a step and West Virginia should follow the example of states such as Colorado by legalizing it for recreational use.
All of these beliefs have their advantages and disadvantages in the eyes of West Virginia legislators, and that is why it is so important to write to your representatives. While it may not give you direct power over their vote, public opinion has been known to sway politicians before, and as the subject of medical marijuana is such a hot topic right now, legislators want to make the right choice. If you believe your choice is the right choice, then I strongly encourage you to be active.
The decision about medical marijuana has the potential to have an effect on the future of anyone who plans to build a life here in West Virginia. Even if you do not have a strong opinion in either direction on the matter, it is important to be informed of the laws and policies around you. Regardless of the outcome, it looks like West Virginia legislators will have an interesting year ahead of them.